Personal Capital Review: Manage Your Finances For Free
I’ve been using Personal Capital for more than a year so I think a Personal Capital review would be in order to go over my experience using the platform. As my wife and I are relatively busy managing our business I have been looking for a way to streamline management of our finances and Personal Capital provides a great way to do exactly that. If you’ve not heard of Personal Capital before think of them as Mint with a twist of investing thrown into it.
While I’ve been fine managing our various investment and financial accounts, I’m also looking for ways to simplify my life and this was an easy first choice to try and accomplish that. This Personal Capital review will help you determine if they’re a justifiable option to simplify your life and stay on top of your finances.
Before I get into the review of Personal Capital, I’ll give a brief background on the company. Personal Capital is run by former PayPal and Intuit CEO Bill Harris. He was key in raising $28 million to start the company and most of the higher ups within the organization have obtained the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.
See what CEO Bill Harris has to say about Personal Capital here:
The Personal Capital site and associated app would best be viewed as a platform that allows you to co-mingle all your financial accounts – from bank accounts, to online brokerage accounts, loans, mortgages, credit cards and more. This is all done as a way to help you have one location to go to that not only tracks all of your finances, but also analyzes your investments to make sure you’re on track for where you want to be.
The beauty of Personal Capital is you can set it up to manage as much or as little of your finances as you want. You can use it to simply track all of your spending and expenses, or you can use it to manage all of your investments in one place – or you can do both of course.
Who Can Use Personal Capital?
The beauty is that anyone can use Personal Capital. Anyone can open an account with Personal Capital and use its platform as it’s free!
How great is that? You may be wondering how they make money and that would be a very good question.
How Personal Capital makes money is through their ideal clients – the mass affluent that have at least $100,000, but really $250,000+, of investible assets. Those clients have the option of being paired with a financial planner who will go over their investment needs, though that’s not required by any means. This is where their income comes into play as Personal Capital earns a certain percentage of income, based on the assets they’re managing for you. The cost of that is as follows:
- $1,000,000 or less is .89%
- $1,000,0001 – $3,000,000 is .79%
- $3,000,001 – $5,000,000 is .69%
- $5,000,001 – $10,000,000 is .59%
- $10,000,001+ is .49%
The big key to remember is that these fees are on top to the fees you’d experience through being put into one of the investment funds, generally an ETF, so in some cases you might be looking in the neighborhood of 1%, or so, in expenses which is definitely in the competitive range of investment management fees. That said, you can most definitely use the Personal Capital platform and not pay a dime to do so.
Features of Personal Capital
The Platform is free: Who doesn’t like free? I’ve used Personal Capital for over a year now and cost me nothing. You can’t argue with free.
Fee analyzer: I love this feature of Personal Capital! What this feature does is analyze the fees you’re paying in things like your 401k or mutual funds to help you see where exactly your money is going. As an aside, knowing how much your investments are costing you is an incredibly important thing to know as it can be a significant drag on your overall portfolio.
Easy to use App: I know this should be a given in today’s age but many do not deliver on that. The Personal Capital app is different. It’s intuitive and easy to use on a variety of devices. I’ve used it both on an iPad as well as my Android based phone and it has done great on both. If security is a concern, Personal Capital requires a four digit code to be sent to you via either text or call to authorize the device.
Investment checker: Do you know how your investment choices are comparing to their benchmarks? If you don’t, this is a great feature Personal Capital offers and is free to use. After connecting your investment accounts with Personal Capital they tell you how your investments are allocated and how they’re doing against their benchmarks. The process of connecting your brokerage accounts took me maybe ten minutes and was very simple and straightforward to follow. What this essentially breaks down to is an on-going free portfolio review.
Free to send money: Through their Universal Checkbook feature Personal Capital allows you to send funds to anyone you wish or deposit funds directly into your personal banking account. I’ve not used the feature myself, yet, but they have easy to follow instructions to get it set up.
Reminders: I don’t know about you, but life is hectic. It’s easy to forget things. Personal Capital allows you to set reminders so you’re notified when bills are due or sent and even updates to your net worth.
Net Worth tracker: As Personal Capital allows you to connect assets as well as loans, mortgages and credit cards, you can easily see what your net worth. Not only this, but it also tracks your net worth and you can get reminders of when it’s updated. I didn’t connect everything, but did connect our bank accounts and mortgage which, like the investment checker was simple to follow.
Investment education: As I’ve stated in many of my online brokerage reviews, education is key and Personal Capital doesn’t fall short here. They offer numerous free investment courses on their site to help get you started investing in the stock market. I’ve not used the education myself, but after looking it over they have solid offerings.
Tax Analyzer: No, Personal Capital will not help you with your taxes but they will help you analyze ways to lower your overall taxable liability through tools like tax loss harvesting. This is an incredibly helpful tool to have if you’re in a need to reduce your tax responsibility.
Incredibly easy to use: Ok, this is not really a feature, per se, but I wanted to point it out. Having used the Personal Capital site over the past year, I have found that it’s incredibly easy to use. Their graphs and charts are simple to understand as are most of the features on the site.
Should You Be Concerned About Security With Personal Capital?
At first thought, I was a bit unsure of handing Personal Capital all of the login information to our bank and brokerage accounts. After doing a good bit of research on their practice though, those fears went away.
Once I was fine handing over that information, the rest was a breeze. You can link any financially related accounts with as little as three clicks and from there they require you to be able to login to each account you’re linking as well as requiring login upon each visit to your Personal Capital account.
What does this mean for you? It means you can link bank accounts. You can link credit card accounts. You can link brokerage accounts. You can even link your mortgage if you like.
Personal Capital uses a two-factor authentication system when you first sign up to use one of their free accounts. They first make you verify your password and identify the computer you’re using. If you try logging in from another computer, they send a notification to your email or phone to make sure it really is you.
In addition to that they can send you daily recaps of account activity in all of your accounts so you can stay on top of everything that is going on. Personal Capital encrypts all of your account information just like any other site with integrity would as well as having photo and password protection required.
Personal Capital review – my take
If you’re looking for a completely free tool to use to manage your overall finances Personal Capital is a great option to try out. The platform allows you to co-mingle many of your financial accounts which enable you to have a snapshot view of how you’re doing financially. If you’re someone who likes to keep track of net worth or save time by getting a quick run down of where you stand then Personal Capital is a worthy consideration – especially considering that it’s free.
The one knock against Personal Capital is the platform does not offer any budgeting help. In my opinion that doesn’t knock Personal Capital out of consideration as there are so many budgeting tools out there, like Mint, You Need A Budget, etc., and many of them are free. If you’re looking for a budgeting platform there is no reason you couldn’t use that in conjunction with Personal Capital. (6/30/15 Update – Personal Capital has recently added an expense tracking/budget feature to the site allowing them to offer virtually the same budgeting pieces Mint does. This helps tip the Personal Capital vs. Mint scale towards Personal Capital, in my opinion.)
I think for the right person, using Personal Capital would be a great option. At the very least, they offer a free service that allows you to keep track of your investments and see what changes might be beneficial to you. Beyond that, Personal Capital provides a great way to manage your finances holistically in order to help increase your net worth.
If you’re looking for a financial advisor, they do have trained advisers who are assigned to your account and they make it easy for you to sign up for a call or instant chat with an adviser from the site. When I signed up for my account, one reached out to me but it was not a service I took advantage of as I knew I’d not be paying for professional advice.
Managing your finances is important, to say the least. There are many tools you can use to do that and you need to find the one that fits you and your needs most. With that being said, I’ve had a great experience using Personal Capital – even more so because it’s completely free to use!
Do you use a service like this or Mint to help you co-mingle all of your financial data? If not, why not and if so what benefits do you get out of it?